It seems the turnaround strategy of French car manufacturer Peugeot, now part of the Stellantis Group, is working in South Africa, with small growth in its sales volumes over the past year despite the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the automotive industry.
The launch of its latest 2008 SUV model locally should accelerate this trend as, compared to the somewhat austere outgoing model, the new cub in the Lion of Belfort pride is more mature, with much sharper, angular, and more masculine styling, as well as a more pronounced signature claw-mark design theme.
The new model, with its sporty, adventurous looks, oozes French flair. Its bold front and strong profile, with daring triangular lines, is eye-catching and makes for one of the most attractive smaller SUVs now available.
First launched here in 2014 and quite extensively facelifted in 2017, the 2008 has proved a significant success story for the brand globally, with over a million units of the facelifted 2008 sold before the introduction of the second generation about 18 months ago.
Based on the Common Modular Platform (CMP) of PSA (or is that now Stellantis?) shared with the DS3 Crossback, Opel Corsa and upcoming Opel Mokka, the new 2008 is larger and more spacious than the current model. With a length of 4.3 m and a wheelbase of 2.6 m, the latest model is 141 mm longer and has a 67 mm extended wheelbase, giving it a luggage capacity of 434 litres.
Overseas, the 2008 is available with five internal combustion engine options (including a turbodiesel with two different power outputs) and electric drive (the e2008 with a 100 kW electric motor), but locally Peugeot has only introduced four models, all powered by the revised PureTech 1.2litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine.
The line-up starts with the Active 1.2T equipped with the lower output PureTech engine delivering 74 kW and 205 Nm of torque and mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Next up is the Active 1.2T with the high output PureTech engine now delivering a more substantial 96 kW (up from 81 kW) and 230 Nm of torque, coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission.
The Allure and flagship GT 1.2T derivatives are available exclusively with a six-speed auto transmission and high-output 96 kW motor. For the local launch – held in Gauteng and Limpopo – only GT models with a wide array of bright body colours (including Elixir Red, Vertigo Blue and Fusion Orange) were available.
Other distinctive attributes of the high-end GT include full LED projector headlights with 3-claw light signature, diamond-cut 17” aluminium wheels, a black window strip and silk-screened C-pillar, and a meticulously detailed interior with Black Diamond headlining, black trim, Adamite colour stitching, mood lighting, dynamic seats and aluminium pedals.
Inside, the instrument panel’s modern design and the quality of the interior materials and trim is a huge step up from its predecessor. There is bright trim on the dashboard and door panels, and you can choose from eight “mood lighting” colours via the touch screen. A sunroof is available as an optional extra (for R21,750).
There is a variety of practical storage space on board, with an induction charging pad in the centre console and four USB sockets (depending on the version). The GT is also equipped with the new i-Cockpit 3D instrument cluster with hologram projection – a world first in the segment and a real innovation in terms of conveying information to the driver.
The dynamic and animated display with enhanced readability increases driver engagement and reactivity, and we found it improves the entire driving experience. This is augmented by a 10” HD capacitive colour touchscreen with Mirror Screen connectivity and a configurable 3D head-up display.
On the Road
It takes some time to familiarise yourself with the positioning and feel of Peugeot’s trademark compact steering wheel but once on the go, it falls easily to hand. The small three-cylinder turbo engine felt lively and quite feisty on the highway and combined flawlessly with the automatic transmission with driving mode selector (Sport, Normal, or Eco).
A bit more torque would have been welcome on some of the up-hill sections, but the engine/drivetrain combination worked well overall. On the uneven, coarse tarred roads of Limpopo, the solidness and exemplary build-quality of the new 2008 impressed, and even rough, waterlogged dirt tracks could not upset its composure and excellent ride quality.
Thanks to Grip Control and hill assist descent control (HADC), we were surprised at how well our 2008 GT handled the muddy and slushy roads (something French cars are not renowned for). This adds to its class-leading technological arsenal, including Drive Assist with lane departure avoidance, automatic emergency braking, involuntary lane crossing warning, automatic high-beam switching, active blind-spot monitoring, and road sign recognition.
The new 2008 faces stiff competition from a brace of compact SUVs, including the Volkswagen T-Cross, Opel Mokka, Citroen C3 Aircross, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Renault Captur and Duster, the recently launched Hyundai Creta and Mazda CX-30.
However, first impressions of this new, good-looking cub are very favourable. It is more sophisticated than its predecessor, it is technologically advanced and connected, and it feels solid and well-engineered – a compelling package in a highly competitive market segment and just what Peugeot needs to claw back more market share.
Pricing for the range is competitive too, starting from R359,900 for the Active 1.2T 74 kW and going up to R479,000 for the flagship GT 1.2T 96 kW auto, including a three-year/60,000 km service plan.
Report by Ferdi de Vos | Images © Peugeot South Africa